Volunteer in Costa Rica
Are the tropics calling your name? Do you want to explore a magical country while helping improve life for the locals? Do you want to use your love and passion to make a difference while on a life-changing adventure? If so, keep reading to discover IFRE’s amazing volunteer projects in Costa Rica!
Costa Rica is a tropical delight and the crown jewel of Central America. Its’ capital city, San Jose, is a cultural gem resting in a valley surrounded by beautiful mountains.
However, despite its natural beauty and friendly people, Costa Rica is a developing country with real problems like poverty, social imbalance, and a lack of access to quality healthcare in rural areas. A slow-moving, and sometimes ineffective government, which struggles to deal with these issues and help its citizens, compounds these problems.
IFRE offers a wide range of life-changing volunteer projects in Costa Rica that allow you to make a difference in the lives of countless people in a variety of ways. No matter what project you choose, you will contribute to a better life for both the people and animals with whom you work.
Not only will you be giving back to the people of Costa Rica, but you will be surrounded by beauty while immersing yourself in the Pura Vida (pure life) culture for which this country is famous.
Do you want to give back and fulfill your passion while traveling and immersing yourself in an amazing culture? Then contact IFRE now to learn more about volunteering in Costa Rica!
Available Projects in San Jose, Costa Rica
No matter what your background, passion, or interests may be, IFRE has volunteering programs in San Jose, Costa Rica you can get excited about! Explore the projects we have to offer below and find a cause that speaks to you!
Right now, there are many underprivileged children in Costa Rica who are helpless and have no one to look after them. Other children have been removed from abusive or dysfunctional homes and put in safe houses. These poor kids need your help! If you want to provide love and support to underprivileged children, then you should consider joining this impactful project.
At this project, you will be taking care of young children and organizing creative extra-curricular activities, teaching basic English, helping the kids with homework and sharing stories about your life and country. Basic knowledge of the Spanish language is highly preferred, but not mandatory. Experience with working with underprivileged children is considered a big plus for this project, and you will need lots of patience, kindness, and compassion.
English language skills are in high demand and can help Costa Ricans get well-paying jobs in the lucrative tourism industry. Unfortunately, schools lack sufficient resources and qualified teachers who are fluent in English to pass this skill along to their students. International volunteers like you can help fill this void, and the help you provide to young Ticos and Ticas can be truly life-changing, both for you and them.
This volunteer opportunity in Costa Rica is a fantastic opportunity to teach English to children from disadvantaged families while immersing yourself in the culture of local Costa Rican people. You need to have a solid grasp of the English language, and native speakers are preferred. This project is a fantastic opportunity to gain practical experience teaching in a classroom, and to help ensure your young students have a bright future with many possibilities.
Open doors and economic opportunities for disadvantaged children in Costa Rica by sharing your love of the English language!
Medical volunteering in Costa Rica is all about gaining invaluable experience. As a medical volunteer in Costa Rica, you will to educate locals on different health topics which can help improve their quality of life, and you will also help provide basic care. You will shadow local doctors and nurses in the treatment of sick patients and carry out training related to nutrition and disease prevention. This program is the perfect project for those who are pursuing a career in the healthcare field or medical professionals seeking to gain insight into a foreign healthcare system.
Provide support to local doctors and fulfill your passion for healthcare as you can priceless experience in the medical field.
Do you want to be part of a team and build something extraordinary for children in need? International volunteers in Costa Rica program are needed to help build a school, an orphanage, and to repair and build local homes for people who truly have nothing. Get involved to make a difference today!
You will get the chance to work with your hands side by side with like-minded volunteers and make a profound positive impact on the local community. In addition to building new structures, you will have the opportunity to do general construction and repairs where they are needed. Get your hands dirty and help build a brighter future for children and poor communities in need!
Are you passionate about protecting the environment and learning about sustainable agriculture? Sadly in Costa Rica industrial farming methods for growing coffee has caused much harm to the environment. There is an urgent need to promote eco-friendly practices.
In this unique, hands-on project, you will work with local coffee growers who practice sustainable farming and learn about alternative methods of farming. You will also assist with every step of coffee production. You will participate in reforestation efforts and positively impact the environment and help save Mother Earth.
Sea turtles have been living and thriving in the world’s oceans for more than 150 million years, but today they are in danger of extinction. Each sea turtle species uniquely affects the diversity, habitat, and functionality of its environment, and they play a vital role in maintaining the health of the oceans. Sea turtle project in Costa Rica is managed by both local and international environmentalists and biologists. The primary focus of this projects is to increase the birth rate and survival of baby sea turtles. The project also works to collect data and educate the local community about sea turtles and the marine ecosystem.
Do you have a passion for animals? Are you interested in contributing to the rescue and rehabilitation of endangered animals in Costa Rica? Join our Costa Rica animal care volunteer program!
Would you like to volunteer in beautiful Costa Rica making a difference? Do you have a passion for environment conservation and love working to conserve Costa Rican beaches? Let IFRE plan your ultimate volunteer experience abroad.
Do you want to give back during the holidays and make a real difference in the world? How would you like to spend Christmas or New Year’s volunteering in Costa Rica? Join us on this rewarding project!
In addition to the above projects, we also offer group programs for college and high school students, family volunteering, alternative spring breaks, and many other programs. Contact IFRE for further information.
Volunteer in Costa Rica: Dates and Fees
IFRE programs begin every Monday year-round. If you have travel constraints, you can still start your chosen program on any day of the year.
Volunteers can participate in our programs from 1 week up to 12 weeks.
Since 2006, IFRE has been the most trusted and respected volunteer abroad organization in the world, and also the most affordable. We’re dedicated to providing the highest quality volunteer programs at the lowest fees, making them accessible to everyone, especially students, to volunteer internationally and make a positive impact in the lives of others.
We believe in 100% transparency. Rest assured, we never use middlemen. Your one-time registration fee of $299 covers our administrative costs. The low weekly fee is paid in the host country directly to your host family and project (via the country coordinator), and includes housing, food, and minor expenses. IFRE is a non-profit organization, so your program fees are tax deductible.
Volunteer Program Fee (US$)
| San Jose
(Childcare, Teaching English)
| San Jose
| Manuel Antonio
(Childcare, Teaching English)
For volunteer vacation, The fee includes weekly surcharge
Spanish Immersion Classes
Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica - $150/week
San Jose, Costa Rica - $125/week
Program Fees Cover:
- Shared Accommodation with host family
- 2 meals per day (Breakfast & Dinner)
- Airport Pick up
- In-country support
- Program Orientation
- Project Management
- Volunteer Certificate
- Discount for returning volunteers
Program Fees Exclude:
- Personal expenses such as soft drinks and snacks
- Daily transportation
- Airport return transfer
The volunteering overseas in Costa Rica program fees will cover expenses from the first day of the program to the last day of the program. If you arrive before the first day of the program or you decide you stay beyond your program’s last day, you will be responsible for the additional expenses.
You have a lot to consider when deciding to volunteer abroad, but worrying if whether you’ll be safe and well-taken care of shouldn’t be one of them. Rest easy knowing that IFRE carefully vets and manages every detail for you, and you’ll be able to focus on helping others and having an amazing time on your Costa Rica volunteer trip.
IFRE makes sure you have a safe, clean and comfortable place to sleep, two healthy local meals a day, and we watch over you closely with our in-country staff of passionate, knowledgeable professionals.
During our volunteer programs in Costa Rica, you will stay with well-screened host families. Our host families are socially respected and are well versed in the art of hosting international volunteers. Host families offer a safe home, shared rooms and bathroom facilities.
You can do laundry at the house or the host family may offer to do it for you for a nominal extra fee. The family will prepare you three meals per day. If you will be out of the house during lunch hour, you can request a lunch "to go" that you can take with you or eat out on your own. Host families provide typical meals that are traditional to Costa Rica, which usually includes rice and beans.
Throughout your volunteering project in Costa Rica, our local staff will stay in contact with you via face-to-face visits or via email/telephone. With longer placements, we visit our volunteers every two weeks (when possible) and volunteers are always welcome at the local office. If project placement is local, we request that volunteers stop by the office once a week to keep us posted on how they are doing with their homestay and project. If the project placement is further away, then our local staff members maintain communication by either email and/or phone.
For more readings
12 tips to enhance cultural experience in host families
Spanish Language Training
Would you like to learn Spanish to enrich your time in Costa Rica and be able to connect on a deeper level with the people you are volunteering to help? IFRE currently offers highly affordable Spanish language classes in Costa Rica. These classes are exclusive to IFRE volunteers participating in our volunteer programs. We partner with a highly reputable Spanish school with qualified and experienced Spanish teachers. This program is structured so that volunteers can work at their volunteer project and learn Spanish simultaneously.
For example, volunteers in Costa Rica can take Spanish classes for just 2 hours a day before or after your volunteer activities. Most of the projects are located close to the Spanish school, so it is possible for volunteers to design a personal schedule. IFRE invites you to improve your Costa Rica experience by learning or improving your Spanish.
Volunteer in Costa Rica: Free Time
You will have plenty of free time during the evening and weekends while volunteering in Costa Rica. While IFRE does not arrange activities during this time off, our local staff members and coordinators can provide priceless assistance in making appropriate arrangements for travel in Costa Rica. It’s the best time for self-discovery and learning.
San Jose is the largest city in Costa Rica with almost 1.5 million people. The city is located at an altitude of 1200 meters and is surrounded by lush valleys. Central San Jose contains a surprising mix of wealthy and poor people. Expensive shops and boutique hotels often share the pavement with small wares vendors and musicians who serenade passersby for their spare change. San Jose also has traditional charm with wooden homes, brick-lined pedestrian streets and grand theaters. From San Jose, you can take short trips to rainforests, volcanoes and pristine beaches.
Your safety is IFRE’s number one priority at all times, and you can have peace of mind knowing we will do everything possible to ensure you have a safe and secure experience volunteering in Costa Rica. We offer pre-trip support, reliable and comprehensive travel insurance, airport pick-up, and availability to 24/7 guidance and support by an experienced in-country staff that is right there on the ground to help you every step of the way.
As soon as you arrive in Costa Rica, you will have the support of an experienced team of in-country field staff. The team is comprised of mature, educated, socially respected individuals who are dedicated humanitarians and highly experienced in working with international volunteers.
Your main point of contact will be the in-country coordinator. They will select your Costa Rica volunteering project placement, make all the arrangements for your airport transfer, accommodations, and food. They’ll give you an orientation which covers culture, safety, and your service work, introduce you to your host family and project staff, and make periodic visits and calls to check up on your progress. You can reach out to the coordinator at any time with any questions, issues, or to ask for advice and they will be happy to assist you.
Volunteer in Costa Rica: FAQs
You can’t wait to get to Costa Rica and start volunteering in paradise. We get it! This is the adventure of a lifetime. You probably still have a lot of questions, though, and you’re not alone. Every day, IFRE helps prospective volunteers like yourself navigate the volunteer abroad world, and we have nearly 15 years of experience you can benefit from. Take a look at these commonly asked questions you might have. We’ve provided many of the answers you need.
Which airport do I need to fly into for my volunteer project?
You need to fly into San Jose Airport for your volunteer trip in Costa Rica.
Do you organize airport pick-up?
Yes, we do organize airport pickups for you in San Jose. A local representative of IFRE will be waiting at the airport arrival terminal for you upon your landing in San Jose Airport. All of the airport pickup details will be provided to you prior to your flight to Costa Rica.
What happens if I miss a flight or arrive late?
If you were to miss your flight or arrive late into the San Jose Airport, then you could contact us as soon as possible either by contacting our in-country coordinator or getting in touch with our office staff via email or telephone. We will then arrange a new pick-up time for you.
How can I get to my accommodations from the airport, if I did not connect with IFRE’s local representative in the airport?
It’s very easy to get to your accommodation from the San Jose Airport once you have landed. Your accommodation which can be our volunteer hostel or a hotel you chose to stay in can be reached by hiring a taxi. You simply need to have the address of our volunteer hostel and tell the driver of a local cab to take you there if you have not connected with IFRE’s local representative before the start of your volunteer project in Costa Rica. You will also have the representative’s phone number, so you can call them.
Who will come to pick me up? How do I recognize the person at the airport?
A local representative of IFRE will come to pick you up at the San Jose Airport prior to the start of your volunteer program. IFRE will provide you with all the personal details of its representative before your flight to San Jose, Costa Rica so that once you have landed you can get in touch with them. You can recognize our representative by looking for a person holding a white sign with your name written on it.
If my volunteer program begins on Monday, when should I arrive? If I want to arrive earlier than then my assignment begins, where do I stay and who will organize the accommodations? Does it cost me extra?
We recommend you arrive in San Jose on Sunday as all of our Costa Rica volunteer experiences begin on Monday. Arriving on Sunday will leave you some time to relax and gather yourself before the start of your volunteer program the next day. But if you decide to arrive earlier than the start date of your assignment, you will be responsible for getting a hotel room and paying for this extra expense. Be sure to inform our in-country coordinator of your plans.
Who will bring me to the airport for my departure after completing my volunteer work?
Return transportation to the airport is not included in your volunteer fee. Once the volunteer project is completed you will need to arrange for your transportation to the airport. Local project staff can give you advice on booking a taxi or taking a bus.
What do I need prior to departure from my home country?
There are several steps you will need to take prior to leaving home. You will need to buy your airline tickets and provide your itinerary to our in-country coordinator so they can arrange your pick-up. You need to visit your doctor and get up to date on your vaccinations. You need to research the requirements for obtaining a visa from your home country. You need to purchase travel insurance, and research your destination including the customs and culture so you know what to expect and can make the most of your time there.
Where are the projects located?
Our volunteer programs in San Jose, Costa Rica are located in and around the capital city, which is located in a valley of the mountainous central highlands, and enjoys a cooler, temperate climate than the more humid, tropical coasts.
San Jose abounds with culture and boasts a wide variety of museums, parks, plazas and restaurants. From activities that will have your heart racing to renowned theaters with spectacular European-inspired architecture, there's something for everyone to do. It is also very convenient to take day trips from San Jose to volcanoes, beaches, and rainforests all over the small country.
Is there any minimum and maximum stay?
Yes, there is a minimum and maximum period duration of 1 week to 12 weeks for our volunteer projects in San Jose, Costa Rica.
Can I extend my stay if I choose to?
Yes, you can extend your stay in Costa Rica if you wish to stay for a longer period of time than you originally planned. Those wishing to stay in Costa Rica over 90 days will need to leave the country for a short time to renew their visas.
Will I have enough time to travel after work and on the weekends while volunteering in Costa Rica?
Yes, you will get free time to travel and visit popular tourist sites while volunteering in San Jose with us. You only need to put in 8 hours of work every day typically from 9 am to 4 pm. This leaves plenty of time for you to travel and get familiar with the places near your project placement. Also, you won’t have to work on weekends so there’s no shortage of free time for leisure and travel during our volunteering projects.
Who will guide or support me in my volunteer project?
All of our volunteer trips in Costa Rica are managed by a competent and well-experienced in-country coordinator. The in-country coordinator looks after you in Costa Rica and provides constant support and guidance on a day to day basis. You can ask for assistance from our country coordinator in case of emergencies and always rely on him/her to solve your issues and help.
Can I change projects if I do not like my initial selection?
Yes, if you change your mind or feel dissatisfied with your initial choice, contact the in-country coordinator to discuss this option. A new project will be selected based on availability.
Can I work in more than one volunteer program at a time?
Yes, you can participate and work in more than one volunteering in Costa Rica project at a time. You can discuss this option with IFRE. However, we do need to advise you that doing so can be physically and mentally exhausting as each of our projects can take at least 4 hours of work daily. So, you must be fully aware that joining more than one project is not going to be easy, and you will have less free time to explore Costa Rica.
How old should I be to take part?
You should be at least 18 years old to participate. Minors wishing to volunteer alone can in some cases present a letter of consent from their parents, and we may be able to make an exception. Minors can also volunteer alongside their parents.
Who manages the volunteer projects?
IFRE’s volunteering in Costa Rica programs are fully managed by its in-country coordinator. The in-country coordinator is experienced and highly prepared to look after you during your volunteering trip. If there’s any issue regarding the project, you can go ahead and discuss it with the in-country coordinator to find a solution and get on with the project.
Will I receive training before the start of the project?
Yes, you will receive training prior to the start of your volunteer work. The training session will allow you to get familiar with the norms and customs of Costa Rica and its people. You will also learn how to stay safe and avoid potential security threats while volunteering abroad in Costa Rica. We will go over your project and schedule.
Is there a dress code in the project?
There are no stern dress codes to follow in Costa Rica. You can wear any decent, modest clothing that feels comfortable to you during your volunteer trip in Costa Rica.
Why should I pay to volunteer abroad?
Paying to volunteer abroad can seem pretty odd at first, especially if you are a first-time volunteer making a trip overseas. When you take a closer look, though, it makes perfect sense. The life-changing volunteer program you want to join couldn’t be run without the fees paid by its volunteers, and they also have to house you, feed you, train you, and supervise you. In addition, IFRE is a non-profit organization that makes absolutely no money off of its programs. We only charge enough to sustain projects and rely completely on your application fee to pay our operational costs.
Why are IFRE’s fees so much more affordable than other volunteer organizations?
IFRE is an American based non-profit volunteer organization. Unlike its competitors, IFRE does not aim to make any profits by running its volunteer programs, as money is not a motivating factor for us. This allows us to charge you lower rates.
Can I get a tax deduction for my volunteer program?
Yes, you can get a tax deduction for all of our volunteer programs as we are an American non-profit 501©3 volunteer organization which collaborates with many local level institutions and NGOs (non-governmental organizations) in Costa Rica. IFRE remains devoted to maintaining both the quality of its volunteer programs as well as the safety of all participants involved.
Can I get help to raise funds?
Yes, IFRE can help you raise funds for your volunteer work project. Contact us to learn more.
For further readings:
Is it safe to travel to Costa Rica?
Costa Rica is considered to be a very safe tourist destination. But you have to be aware that the security situation in Costa Rica is unpredictable, like any other country and your safety can never be fully guaranteed no matter where you volunteer. You should also be aware that robbery and theft are a possibility in Costa Rica, and particularly in San Jose you should not be out walking alone at night and be cautious of which areas you choose to visit.
What safety measures should I take during my volunteer trip?
Although Costa Rica is a popular and safe volunteer destination in Latin America, we highly recommend that you stick to individually planned itineraries and stay true to your schedule. You will be looked after throughout the project with frequent visits by your in-country coordinator. The field staff will also take care of you and help you complete your volunteer project. During your orientation you will be briefed on safety measures.
What will happen if I get sick?
If you get sick you will be taken to the nearby local hospital and clinic by our local staff or coordinator depending upon the level of seriousness and severity of your health. Be sure to bring along your passport and a copy of your insurance policy.
Why must I get travel insurance before beginning my volunteer trip?
Travel insurance is vital (and compulsory) for all of IFRE’s volunteer projects in San Jose. Things like stolen luggage, natural disasters, medical costs and evacuation can all be taken care of with the help of travel insurance. IFRE can provide reliable, comprehensive, and affordable coverage.
What vaccinations do I need?
The CDC and WHO recommend vaccinations for Chikungunya, Dengue, Hepatitis A, Hepatitis B, Rabies, Yellow Fever, and Malaria. Be sure to meet with your doctor to discuss this. You can learn more about these vaccinations here.
What are the principal health risks for volunteers?
Malaria, Dengue Fever, Chikungunya Virus, Zika, and Leptospirosis are prevalent diseases in Costa Rica. You must follow necessary medical measures to prevent these diseases. The tropical environment of Costa Rica has many health risks in general for volunteers to be aware of before their arrival in Costa Rica. From vaccinations to sun protection and snake bites, you must be wary of every potential threat to your well-being.
For further readings:
Do I need a visa?
Yes, you will need a tourist visa to enter and volunteer in San Jose, Costa Rica. Everyone is granted up to 90 days. At the expiration of your visa, you will need to leave Costa Rica for a short time if you wish to stay on longer and get a new visa stamp upon re-entry. To do so you will need to show proof of onward travel. Find out detailed information about Costa Rican travel visa policies.
How do I apply for the visa?
You can visit the Embassy of Costa Rica located in your home country. You will have to fill out a visa application form and bring your original passport and a couple of photos for submission. Depending on your nationality, you can also obtain a tourist visa for Costa Rica upon arrival at the airport, and make sure to have proof of onward travel. Do your research ahead of time to learn the requirements based on your home country.
Can I extend my visa while I am in the country? Can you help me with this?
No, but you can obtain a new tourist visa by making a short trip to Nicaragua or Panama and then returning to Costa Rica. You will need proof of onward travel and to prove $100 of solvency for each month you want to stay with your new visa. If you will overstay your tourist visa by just a few days while volunteering in Costa Rica, you can simply pay the fine when you depart.
How do I contact IFRE’s local coordinator during my volunteering trip?
You can contact IFRE’s local coordinator via your mobile phone or go online and email them your inquiry. We will provide you with the personal contact details of our local coordinators before the start of the volunteer project. So, if there is an emergency, or you feel like you need help, you can get in touch with them immediately.
How can I communicate with my family from Costa Rica?
There won’t be much trouble communicating with your family from Costa Rica. You will have access to telephone and Internet while volunteering abroad in Costa Rica. So, you can either call your parents and friends, or go online and chat with them on Facebook or Skype.
Can I use my phone?
Yes, you can use your personal mobile phone during your volunteer trip in San Jose. Be sure to check with your current provider before to see if it will work, as some phones are locked.
Can I buy a SIM card in Costa Rica?
Yes, you can buy a SIM card while volunteering in San Jose. You need to bring your original passport along with a recent passport size photo for documentation. It will take a couple of minutes to fill out a form with your personal details, but it will nonetheless be an easy task. Again, check with your current provider before travel as some phones are locked and won’t function with the foreign SIM.
How can international volunteers get/purchase Internet services?
First, you will need to buy a local SIM card, and then buy an Internet data pack, which remains valid for a certain period of time, in order to access and use the internet while volunteering in Costa Rica. Kolbi is a brand which is widely available and has a good service range.
Is there internet available everywhere?
Yes, internet services are available in the location where you will be doing all of your volunteer work projects in San Jose.
What do I need to bring for my volunteering project?
Don’t forget to bring your passport, visa and travel insurance. Out of all the things you may need, you should not forget to bring these items for your Costa Rica volunteer abroad project. You should also bring your airline tickets, first aid kit, comfortable clothes, hiking boots, walking shoes, insect repellent, sunscreen, reading materials like books and magazines, credit/debit cards, backpack, camera, mobile phone, laptop, adapter/convertor and a portable charger. IFRE provides bedding, but if you’d like a sleeping bag you can bring it along. Costa Rica has 120 volt electricity with a plug, the same as in the United States.
For further readings:
We hope we have answered all of your questions, and you feel ready to launch the volunteer abroad experience of a lifetime! Contact IFRE today to learn more about volunteering in San Jose, Costa Rica.